Current Superflex ADP (DLF): 38.00 (RB15)
KeepTradeCut Crowdsourced Ranking: RB13
22 Years Old, Entering the 2nd year of a 4 year, $5.7 million rookie contract
The Case for Dobbins
By: Garrett Vena (@FFGoldmine)
The Volume Obstacle
The first argument that’s usually made against J.K. Dobbins is the lack of volume he’s destined to receive in the Ravens’ offense. While Dobbins certainly isn’t going to be one of the few running backs with a 75+% opportunity share, the volume concerns are overblown.
In 2019, when a 30-year-old Mark Ingram finished as the RB11 in PPR formats, he received a 55% opportunity share in the Ravens backfield, splitting duties with Gus Edwards. Last year as a rookie, Dobbins received a minuscule 38.9% opportunity share, which ranked 44th in the NFL. That number is virtually guaranteed to rise significantly in Dobbins’ second-year campaign. Somewhere in the 55-60% range is a realistic forecast for Dobbins’ opportunity share this coming season.
Needless to say, if a past-his-prime Mark Ingram can be an RB1 with a 55% opportunity share in the Ravens offense, there should be little doubt what the hyper-talented Dobbins can do with similar volume.
Despite the frustratingly scarce workload, Dobbins was given in 2020, he was extraordinarily efficient with it. Dobbins ranked #1 amongst all RBs in yards per carry and true yards per carry (discounting long runs). He also finished #1 in breakaway run rate and #3 in yards created per touch. Dobbins ultimately finished with 925 total yards and 9 total touchdowns on a paltry 134 carries and 24 targets.
Not only is Dobbins a very talented runner that is skilled at making defenders miss (as evidenced by his 5th ranked juke rate), Dobbins benefits from the threat of Lamar Jackson. Because defenders have to respect Jackson’s otherworldly rushing ability, they’re often frozen with indecision in the backfield, making it easier for Dobbins to explode through gaping run lanes. This is what I like to call the Alfred Morris-RGIII corollary.
What’s more, the Ravens have one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league. The Ravens’ offensive line ranked 5th in the NFL in run blocking efficiency when Dobbins was running the ball. Although the Ravens did downgrade at RT from Orlando Brown to Alejandro Villanueva, they upgraded significantly at both guard positions, bringing in Kevin Zeitler from the Giants at LG and Georgia mauler Ben Cleveland at RG. Considering they’ll also be getting back their stud LT Ronnie Stanley from injury, the offensive line could actually be better than last year.
Improved Pass Catching
Last but not least, John Harbaugh has been very vocal about two things during the team’s OTA’s this year: 1) Getting their running backs more involved in the passing game. 2) How much Dobbins has improved as a pass-catcher.
It’s no secret that the 230+ pound Gus Edwards has never been a passing game weapon, as he’s averaged 0.4 receptions per game throughout his career. Thus, Dobbins has very little competition for targets out of the backfield in an offense that clearly wants to target their RB’s more often. This is a logical thing to do if you’re the Ravens, as preserving Lamar Jackson will require Jackson to dump more balls off and run the ball less.
Expect Dobbins’ 1.6 targets per game from 2020 to elevate substantially, in turn boosting his PPR production in 2021.
The Baltimore Ravens’ offense is primed to take a big step forward in 2021. The revitalized receiving core will help keep defenses honest, as they will no longer be able to sell out to stop the run. Additionally, the Ravens should be one of the best and highest-scoring offenses in the league. Fantasy football doesn’t have to be hard. Prioritizing players on great offenses that will consistently move the ball and score points is a winning formula, especially when they’re as talented as J.K. Dobbins.
218 rushes for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns
42 receptions on 55 targets for 320 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns
271.5 Fan Pts. (16 per game)
Finishing as the RB8 in PPR Formats
The Case Against Dobbins
By: Britt Sanders (@TheFFSandman)
Baltimore’s Fantasy Football Grim Reaper
J.K. Dobbins is a good football player. This is an argument that is acknowledging that as fact. That being said, fantasy managers tend to put on rose-colored glasses with players who are good but not elite. For Dobbins, the rose-colored glasses conveniently discredit the true superstar on the Ravens offense; Lamar Jackson. As you walk through past historical finishes as a fantasy football ‘group’ you see a trend. Teams that have a rushing quarterback significantly cap the upside of the positional players on that team. This is especially true when you have a quarterback that averaged 9.93 rushes a game.
Low Receiving Floor
The Ravens have brought in Sammy Watkins along with Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace while also vowing to create a more flexible offense. I roughly translate them saying they want to be able to pass when faced with an 8 or more man box (8 or more defensive players within the confines of offensive tackles). The Ravens passing more is something we are all projecting, but how is that going to impact Dobbins?
Which leads me to a game I want to play. The Ravens had 406 total pass attempts last season and 555 rushing attempts. The Ravens ran the ball 57.75-percent of the time, with Jackson being the rushing share leader with 32.72-percent of the rushing yards. Dobbins came in second with 26.21-percent, Edwards with 23.54-percent, and Ingram with 9.73-percent. Dobbins had 2.67-percent more of a share with ten fewer carries. It is safe to say the Ravens will give Dobbins the highest share of the team running back rushes this season. What about the receiving portion, as I outlined above, are the more valuable of the two?
A lot of my argument is based on the fact that Dobbin’s upside is going to be capped based on a limited passing volume. A target is more than two and a half times as valuable as a rush for a running back. Josh Larky does a wonderful job breaking this down in his episode “Lamar Jackson Upside Assassin” (he starts talking about target worth at the 43:00 mark). As the offseason keeps rolling along, the Ravens beat writers keep hinting that the Ravens want to have the flexibility to pass more, and then went out and spent a first and fourth-round pick on two rookie wide receivers. It is a safe assumption Jackson will surpass last year’s 376 pass attempts. However; Jackson is more willing to pull the ball down on passing plays instead of finding his check downs, which is shown in Jackson’s rushes per game. This, combined with added receiving weapons, is going to limit Dobbins receiving upside this year significantly. More passing plays doesn’t mean more targets, especially for a running back that is tied to an elite rushing quarterback.
Last year the Ravens targeted the running back 12.75-percent out of the total target market share. That is split between four players, one of which is now gone. The position will have growth, no doubt, but how much is the question. To have a higher floor, the Ravens are going to need to run more plays. (59 plays last year) and rush less. I will touch more on this in the projection section. In fact, for Dobbins to see 17 touches, the Ravens would need to: run 60-percent of the time, receive a 60-percent rush share, and the Ravens average 61 plays per game. Why is 17 touches a number I am projecting for? Dobbins is not going to see an average of 3 catches a game. That would take Dobbins 68 targets if he were to catch 80-percent of them, which is just not something that is going to happen under the current Ravens circumstances. Under the current projection structure, he would need to command a 16.39-percent running back target share, which would be more than the four running backs combined did last year.
Low Sample Size Efficiency
If you go and look at the top 10 running backs in the yards per carry category, you will see J.K. Dobbins sitting at No.1 with 6 yards per carry. The crux of this is that he had only 134 rushes compared to the other top-5 who had, 190, 201, 378, and 164 rushes. So while his efficiency looks incredible he was on average 100 less carries than the top-5, but that’s skewed because of Derrick Henry’s incredible volume. So if you take out his 378 carries, he on average had 51 less carries than the other Top-5, which is 3 less carries per game. When you expand to the Top-10 he had on average 90 less carries, which is 5.6 carries a game. That matters, because while he was, and will continue to be, efficient his numbers look so good because he was able to capitalize on less volume.
Looking into his last year’s efficiency numbers per playerprofiler.com, he was top-10 in just about every category. While Dobbins is going to clearly be efficient, it isn’t realistic to him to be close to the 6 yards per carry, so what am I projecting for his increased workload goes like this: I project Dobbins to get 57-percent of the carries, which projects to be 228 carries or 13.42 carries a game (55-percent to 45-percent passing to running and 61 plays a game). Using last year’s Top-10 yards per carry leaders with 200 or more carries, they averaged 5.22 yards per carry. I feel comfortable giving Dobbins an edge over that number and feel 5.40 is a realistic projection and number to be regressed to. At 228 carries, I project him to 1,231 yards.
Last season J.K. Dobbins had 8 touchdowns, which given his touch opportunity is extremely impressive. Especially when you factor in his red zone opportunity last season which according to playerprofiler.com was No.28 averaging 1.9 opportunities a game. As impressive as it is, it is also an indictment on his expected regression; he had 152 touches last year and 18.18-percent of those were in the red zone.
I actually don’t think Dobbins’ red zone opportunity is going to increase. The addition of all of the offensive assets simply doesn’t condense small enough to see an increase in touchdown opportunity. I am projecting Dobbins to score 8 touchdowns again rushing as I think his touchdown efficiency (28.57-percent) drops to around 20-percent. I do however project Dobbins to score 1 receiving touchdown, he is just too efficient not to find the end zone. Especially when factoring in more targets for Dobbins.
I just wanted to take a moment and point out a few things that make J.K. Dobbins such a fun player to discuss. In 2019 the average touch total for the top 24 running backs was 18.7 per game, in 2020 the average was 16.3. A large portion of that drop is because Barkley and CMC were out the entire year as well as players like Hines scoring huge chunks of points in a small amount of games. Dobbins can reach that 16 touch threshold but beyond that is questionable. That being said, Dobbins will have the benefit of efficiency to help his case.
228 carries, 1,231 yards and 8 touchdowns
40 targets, 32 receptions, 224 yards and 1 touchdown
231 fantasy points (13.61 points per game)
Projected RB 15 2021 PPR finish